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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We Are All Me by Jordan Crane

Alec Chunn is a librarian and book reviewer in Eugene, Oregon. He served on the 2018 Rainbow Book List Committee and currently co-runs the mock Stonewall Book Award blog, Medal on My Mind


Book cover of We Are All Me by Jordan Crane
How do you explain metaphysics to a child? Though I’m sure attempts have been made, I’m certain that none are as successful as Jordan Crane’s We Are All Me at distilling down philosophical ideas into a concise 96-word early reader.

The story (or is it a poem?) starts with the self then expands into body, world, air, cloud, water. Earth. Seed. Sunshine. Root. Life grows into leaves and fruits and bugs and bees. But, under it all is bone, meat, a heartbeat. Cells. Atoms. Existence. The message that’s preached: “We are all one.”


Image from Toon-Books.com

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like a trippy book. It is a trippy book, hands down. But it’s also kind of amazing. And I’ve never seen anything like it in an early reader. Of the 96 words I mentioned, 44 unique words are used. About a third of those are sight words. The book relies on repetition of both words and images to help convey meaning as it shifts into more complex words like “aware” or “exists” or “atom.”

This rhythmic repetition carries the story—and the reader—along. Likewise, the way the pictures build on (and connect to) each other is integral to understanding the book. For instance, the clouds that are introduced on one page (on which the text reads “made of air”) are replicated on the next (“and of cloud”) but then changed to indicate rain (“made of water”). For something about interconnectedness, it’s a very granular presentation. The pictures bring the complexity of the theme into something easier to decode for a K-2nd grade audience.


Image from Toon-Books.com
But would kids even read this pen-and-ink hardcover that looks like it’s straight out of the 1960s? I haven’t actually read this title with kids, so I don’t know. As the Geisel criteria states, “[the] subject matter must be intriguing enough to motivate the child to read.” I believe that the cover is undeniably inviting, from the way “we” and “me” are visual mirrors of each other, to the vibrant, almost psychedelic colors. I think the topic of interconnectedness is something that we all want to explore, regardless of our belief systems. And I think the story is accessible, though it might require some adult mediation.

Sure, it’s an abstract book. It’s an abstract concept, too. But as far as simplified philosophy goes, it doesn’t get much better than this. Though I think the chances that the Geisel committee will choose this one are slim to none, I’m still holding out some hope. I’m a big fan of anything that pushes the limits of the format and I think this title does just that.

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